Letter: Bristol struggles with slavery shame

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Sir: Many of us in Bristol are campaigning for a long-overdue acknowledgement of the city's connection with the slave trade. Over half a million slaves were carried across the Atlantic in Bristol-based ships.

However, Linda Bellos ("Four historic weeks in British racial history", 11 March) does little to help the campaign by repeating the myth about the Ilfracombe wreck.

The ship was not carrying slaves. They were black prisoners of war captured by General Abercromby's army in the West Indies in the war against France. The French had recruited many freed slaves into their army and navy. The prisoners were on their way to the Admiralty Prison at Stapleton near Bristol. It was normal to use chains when prisoners of war were being transported

BARRY WILLIAMSON

Bristol

Sir: I must acknowledge Britain's role as a slave-exploiting and trading nation because it is a historical fact - but will Linda Bellos acknowledge the collaboration of some African leaders with that trade, or the fact that Britain was the first great power to abolish it within her territories at the turn of the 19th century, or the role of the Royal Navy in seeking to suppress it in subsequent years?

We will only be able to live together in harmony if we face both the good and the bad in our shared histories.

R S FOSTER

Sheffield

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